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Wiltshire is home to the UK's most iconic landmark, Stonehenge
Wiltshire is home to the UK's most iconic landmark, Stonehenge

Holiday Guide to Wiltshire

The famous actor Ralph Fiennes said "little moments can have a feeling and texture that is very real", and that is exactly what Wiltshire is like.

Wiltshire: So Much More Than Just Stonehenge

While there's no debate that Stonehenge is one of Wiltshire's biggest attractions, you'd be doing this county a huge disservice if you dismissed the rest of it. Wiltshire is one of Britain's best kept secrets with millennia of history, fantastic shopping, stately homes, views for days, and tonnes of things to do whether you're taking a weekend break or staying for a week.

The famous Wiltshire-born actor Ralph Fiennes said "little moments can have a feeling and texture that is very real", and that is exactly what Wiltshire is like. There is nothing about Wiltshire that screams "LOOK AT ME!", yet everything reverberates with the confidence and authenticity that can only come from thousands of years of civilisation and history. Your memories of Wiltshire will continue to glow and resonate long after you leave.

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Discovery DaysRainy DaysAdventure DaysLazy DaysWeekenders' GuideDid You Know?
 

Discovery Days

Discovery Days in Wiltshire
Discover Salisbury Cathedral

Wiltshire is a rare mix of ancient, medieval and modern - often all within a few metres. Spend some time discovering its wonderful towns and cities.

Salisbury

Far from being a sleepy country town, Salisbury is a thriving city crowned by an incredible cathedral and surrounded by the picturesque English countryside. As well as being convenient for Stonehenge, it's handy to the coast and New Forest and is the ideal base for your cottage stay in Wiltshire. The shopping is pretty fantastic. Mixed in with the standard high street names is a huge choice of independent boutiques, shops, and cafes. Don't miss the cathedral which is not only spectacular in its own right, but houses one of four original copies of the 1215 Magna Carta, has Britain's tallest spire, and is home to the nation's oldest clock. Salisbury also has a museum showcasing thousands of years of history of the area.

Bradford on Avon

The River Avon flows through some of the prettiest towns in England, including Bradford on Avon. Bradford wears its history well, with pretty Georgian and Victorian buildings sitting beside Saxon foundations on Roman Roads. It's a top choice for a leisurely morning or afternoon out with rows of nice shops punctuated with cafes and pubs. Fat Fowl is a favourite with locals because of the efficient service and quality of food - most of which comes from within Wiltshire itself. It's very family friendly, but because the family area is upstairs, it's still a peaceful place for those who don't want to eat to the sounds of children.

Bradford on Avon
Historic Bradford On Avon

Bradford is relaxed and interesting rather than exciting and vibrant. The Saxon Church and Tithe Barn appeal to those who like a sense of history, and a stroll along the river or through the garden at Iford Manor is a pleasant way to pass the time.

Marlborough

The busy market town of Marlborough has been attracting visitors to its cobbled streets for centuries. There is a busy market on Wednesdays and Saturdays in the High Street selling a good mix of local produce and handicrafts. Marlborough is particularly pleasant if you like antiques and curios as there are numerous shops selling both good quality examples and inexpensive collectables. Make time to book a tour of the Merchant's House if you can. They run regularly from April to October, but it is sometimes possible to book them out of season if you ask.

Marlborough is very much a country town with strong equestrian roots. Barbury International Horse Trials have been held there for years and is always a fun day out even if you've never sat in a saddle.

Devizes

Devizes is another lovely market town that is as relevant to the area around it today as it always has been. If you want to see what it was like for past residents, then stop by the museum which boasts an impressive collection of Bronze Age artefacts. To the north of the town is Roundway Down. Today it looks like nothing more than rolling fields but on 13 July 1643 it was the site of thousands of deaths in a pivotal battle of the Civil War, and there is also an Iron Age hill fort there.

Locks on the Kennet and Avon Canal
Kennet And Avon Canal

If you're feeling energetic, walk along the Caen Hill Locks. The two-mile walk takes in 29 locks and a rise of nearly 240 feet. It will impress you with its engineering and challenge anyone's belief that canals are flat! Devizes is at the top of the hill, but there is a cafe half way if you want to rest and watch the canal boats navigate the waterway.

Corsham

For a real sense of Wiltshire beauty, go to Corsham. This picturesque town was one of the filming locations for the BBC production of Poldark, and it looks even better in real life. One of the best features is Corsham Court - a stately home in the middle of town, populated by peacocks which roam freely through the Capability Brown gardens. It's a lovely place to walk around at any time of year (as long as it's not raining too heavily). Corsham Court's peacocks tend to wander around town as well, so don't be surprised if you see them in parks, on pavements, or even on rooftops.

Corsham's High Street looks remarkably like a film set, but none of it is staged. The cobbled pavements are lined with honey-coloured Bath stone buildings, some of which date back nearly 400 years, and there is an excellent array of independent shops and cafes. If you can, time your visit for Tuesday, when the weekly market runs between 8am and 3pm on the High Street.

Wiltshire White Horses

Hillside carvings are not unique to Wiltshire, but there are more here than in any other part of Britain thanks to the chalky hills and downs. Wiltshire has eight white horses. The oldest is on Westbury Hill and dates from 1778, and the newest is on Roundway Hill in Devizes and was created in 1999 to celebrate the millennium. Others are in Cherhill, Marlborough, Alton Barnes, Hackpen, Broad Town, and Pewsey.

Chalk horse at Cherhill
The Chalk Horse at Cherhill

The Westbury Horse is one of the easiest to see. Just take the B3098 east of Westbury and you'll find a car park with great views. The Wiltshire White Horses website has details of all the horses and the best vantage points so you can work them into your route as you drive around.

Avebury

Avebury Stone Cirlce
The stone circle at Avebury

Stonehenge is not the only mysterious ancient circle in Wiltshire. Avebury has been awarded World Heritage status for its Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments, including the largest stone circle in Britain. No one knows the purpose behind the henge, but its size and construction indicate it was more important in its day than Stonehenge. Avebury may not carry the same tourism cachet as Stonehenge, but it is free to visit and equally fascinating.

Rainy Days

Stonehenge
The world famous Stonehenge in Wiltshire

It's far from being the wettest county in the UK (that accolade goes to Argyllshire) but Wiltshire still gets a reasonable amount of rain, with December and January being the wettest months. Don't worry because even a downpour won't ruin your holiday with these fantastic rainy days out.

Swindon Designer Outlet

Give your wallet a workout at Swindon Designer Outlet. It's not a full day's entertainment, but there is a decent food court so it's fine for a few hours plus lunch or a snack. It is family friendly with a safe play area, train ride, mini-car hire, creche, and most shops on one level. Parking is cheap if you stay less than five hours.

STEAM

Just next to Swindon Designer Outlet is STEAM - The Museum of the Great Western Railway. STEAM is a brilliant museum for both families and train buffs, with so much to see and lots of interactive displays. STEAM hosts some great exhibitions throughout the year, most notably a LEGO one in October, so check before you go to see what is on while you are there (or what days to avoid, if you don't want to get caught up in a big crowd).

The National Trust head office is a few steps away from both STEAM and Swindon Designer Outlet, with a cafe serving nice meals and good cakes.

Wiltshire has a few other museums worth checking out if trains aren't your thing. The Amesbury History Centre is a small museum with artefacts dating back to the Mesolithic period around 7,500 years ago. The Boscombe Down Aviation Collection is to aeroplane lovers what STEAM is for train buffs. It has limited winter opening hours so check the website before you visit. There is also the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, Salisbury Museum and the Museum of Computing in Swindon (small, but pleasantly nostalgic, and good for kids).

Tour a Brewery

The Wadworth Brewery in Devizes runs regular guided tours lasting around two hours, giving an insightful look into a traditional English industry. Tours are suitable for children aged 12 and over, but they do involve a lot of stairs as the factory is over four floors. You might be lucky enough to see Monty and Max, the brewery's shire horses who deliver beer locally.

Escape at the 11th Hour

Find out how good your other half is under pressure at 11th Hour Escape Rooms. It's more of a diversion than a day out - sessions cost from £15-25 per person and last an hour, but definitely fun! 11th Hour Escape Rooms are in Bromham, just a mile from the excellent Westbrook pub which serves good food all day.

See Stonehenge

Take advantage of fewer tourists and use a rainy day to see Stonehenge. The spectre of this stone circle has been confounding historians, anthropologists and archaeologists for generations. Leave the car and jump aboard The Stonehenge Tour so you can fully appreciate the beauty and history of the surrounding countryside without having to navigate unfamiliar lanes. The bus tour ticket also includes priority entry to Stonehenge so you can skip any queues, and the visitor centre is all under cover.

Adventure Days

Longleat Meerkats
Meerkats at Longleat Safari Park

Longleat Safari Park

Longleat is not the cheapest of days out (one-day tickets for two adults and two children will set you back around £100), but it is value packed so get there early to squeeze every last penny of fun from your ticket. Start with the drive through safari where you will see elephants, monkeys, giraffes, lions, tigers, wolves, cheetah, and big game like rhinos. The rest of the park has daily animal shows and encounters, a gorilla colony, awesome play areas, and an enormous maze.

Part of Longleat House, which is home to the Marquess of Bath and his family, is open daily. Tours leave at 12pm that take in parts of the house which are not always open to the public. There is a lot to see and do at Longleat, and you can buy two-day tickets (consecutive days) for around 50% more than the one-day passes. Tickets are cheaper online than on the gate.

Get a Bird's Eye Perspective

Is there any better way to see Wiltshire than by free-falling at up to 125mph? OK, probably, but we bet they're not as exciting as a tandem skydive! It will certainly make your Wiltshire holiday one you will never forget. If you prefer to stay on the plane, the Bath, Wiltshire and North Dorset Gliding Club have a variety of winch and aerotow options for complete novices.

Cycle the Kennet and Avon Canal

Why pootle along a few miles of the Kennet and Avon Canal when you can traverse all 85 miles between Bath and Reading? A fit person who regularly cycles could do it in 6-7 hours, though it will take longer on weekends and bank holidays when there are more people around. There is a two-mile climb (or descent) at Caen Locks near Devizes, but otherwise, it is reasonably flat and either on towpath or quiet roads.

Avon and Kennet canal
Narrowboats on thew Avon and Kennet canal

A shorter but no less impressive option is to cycle the 22-mile route between Devizes and Bath, 21 miles of which are free of traffic.

Stonehenge ATV

Touring Salisbury Plain has never been so fun! As long as you are over 21 and have had your driving licence for at least three years, you can buckle up with Stonehenge ATV and go exploring for the day in a two-seater buggy with lunch and snacks provided. Another option is Wiltshire Quad Bikes near Castle Combe. You don't need a driving license, and it's suitable for children 12 years and older. Also near Castle Combe is Drive-Tech where you can go off-roading and go-karting.

Lazy Days

Sunset over Old Sarum
Watch the sun set on Old Sarum

Holidays are for recharging your batteries so be kind to yourself with a lazy day or two.

Old Sarum

Spend the day at Old Sarum where you will find gentle walks, scenic views, and amazing flora and fauna. It is especially lovely in spring when the meadows are in bloom, and the description "green" takes on new depth. The site is managed by English Heritage and includes an Iron Age hillfort, the ruins of a castle built in 1070 by William the Conqueror, and 29 acres of gardens and grounds. There are vending machines but no cafe so you'll need to bring a picnic. There are two family friendly pubs nearby, and parking is free.

Tisbury and Old Wardour Castle

Another site excellently managed by English Heritage is Old Wardour Castle. It's just outside the lovely village of Tisbury and, although ruined during a Civil War battle, you can still get a feel for how impressive it was in its heydey. Tisbury is in the stunning Nadder Valley, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The yew tree in the grounds of the 12th Century St John's church has been carbon dated at 4,000 years old and is the second oldest in Britain (the oldest is in Sennybridge in Wales and predates it by 1,000 years). There's also an impressive Grade 1 Listed Tithe Barn and some lovely self-catering properties nearby that make it an ideal Wiltshire base.

Sublime Spa Days

There is no denying a spa day is relaxing. There are some superb spa venues in Wiltshire, but one of the best is The Spa at Bowood Hotel in Calne. In addition to an excellent selection of treatments, Bowood has a pool, sauna, steam room, and gym. Bowood also has a renowned golf course so a day there is a lovely treat for couples or friends with different interests who can go off and do their own thing before meeting back up for lunch or dinner.

Whet Your Appetite

There is absolutely no reason to eat poorly in Wiltshire. Not only does it have brilliant farmer's markets selling fresh local produce, restaurants and cafes cooking seasonally, there are several cooking schools where you can learn to make the most of the ingredients on offer, a favourite of which is at Lucknam Park. A visit to the Lucknam Park estate is a treat in itself (note: another great spa), and as the cookery school offers full and half day courses six days a week, you're almost certain to find a course that tempts you. Why not combine a half day course with a horse ride around the estate or a spa treatment.

Canal Boat Trip

Active souls can cycle or walk along the Kennet and Avon Canal, but if that all seems too strenuous for you, the Kenavon Venture is a 60-foot canal boat that will let you enjoy the canal in comfort. It's moored in Devizes and seats up to 45 people. It is usually quite full on weekends and bank holidays and is not wheelchair accessible, so it's not for everyone, but it is a gentle way to explore one of Britain's historic waterways. The owners of the Kenavon Venture offer a variety of trips from simple sightseeing tours to music evenings with a fish and chip supper.

Magical Laycock

Lacock Village
The Historic Village of Lacock

The village of Lacock, including Lacock Abbey and the Fox Talbot Museum, are expertly managed by English Heritage and are utterly captivating. "Pretty" doesn't even begin to describe the village's overwhelming beauty of stone cottages, cobbled streets, and hedgerows and gardens bursting with life. Lacock Abbey was once a nunnery and later a Tudor family home (on a very grand scale) and Harry Potter fans may recognise some of the hallways and vaulted ceilinged rooms from the early films. If you only have time to visit one of Wiltshire's villages, make sure it is Laycock!

Weekenders' Guide

Essential Guide to Wiltshire
A whirlwind tour of Wiltshire

If your visit to Wiltshire is more of a weekend whirlwind tour then fully immerse yourself in Wiltshire's charms with one (or more!) of our must-see / must-do bucket list activities.

Climb Salisbury Cathedral tower

A Tower Tour of Salisbury Cathedral is not for the faint of heart (or weak of legs - there are 332 steps to the spire), but you will be rewarded with sensational views not only of Salisbury and the surrounding landscape but some of the architectural details that make Salisbury Cathedral so unique. Tours are limited to 12 people and take around an hour and a half and you can book online to secure your place.

Stonehenge up Close

For 363 days a year Stonehenge is roped off to visitors. Most people think the only way they can walk among the stones is to join thousands of others on the summer and winter solstice, but if you're willing to start early or stay late, you can arrange a Stone Circle Access visit. Tickets are highly limited and book out months in advance but give a lucky few the option to walk and sit amongst the stones for an hour at sunrise or sunset. If you aren't able to book a Stone Circle Access tour, make an effort to be at Avebury stones at sunrise or sunset for a similar (and free) experience.

Afternoon Tea at Beatons in Tisbury

Beaton's Tea Rooms is overflowing with quintessentially English charm. All that sightseeing will work up a mean thirst and Beaton's can slake it with 25 different leaf teas, and satisfy even the sweetest tooth with a delicious range of cakes. Stop in for a cuppa, or make a booking for a full high afternoon tea. The tearoom takes its name from Cecil Beaton, the famous designer who spent much of his time relaxing in one of his Wiltshire country homes, and the bookshop attached to the cafe has a collection of design and art related books.

A Rare Chance to see a Medieval Treasure

The church of St Giles is in Imber, surrounded by a few abandoned houses and an expanse of Salisbury Plain. It was left empty in 1943 when the army requisitioned the land for battle training and is now only open to the public on a few days each year. If you're fortunate enough to be there on one of those days, you'll be able to see rare medieval wall paintings. Phone 07968 242075 to find out when the next open date is.

Three Daggers

If you want a true taste of Wiltshire, then stop-off at the Three Daggers. This popular village pub welcomes all (including families and dogs) and is a true gem tucked away in the pretty Wiltshire village of Edington. The beer garden provides glorious views of the surrounding Wiltshire countryside and the roaring log fire is sure to warm up the wettest of days. Daggers very own award-winning ales are brewed on-site and much of the produce the pub showcases comes from Priory Farm, less than a mile up the road. There is also a fabulous farm shop on-site for stocking up on local goodies. Westbury is only four miles from Edington so why not combine a trip to the Three Daggers with a visit to the Bratton White Horse.

Last Minute Offers in Wiltshire

Thinking of a break in Wiltshire? Let us tempt you with a selection of our best last minute offers. Remember, we don't charge a booking fee, so the price you see is the price you pay.

Did you know?

Salisbury Cathedral has the country's tallest spire rising to a magnificent 404 feet. It is hardly surprising it has been struck by lightning 3 times!

The first person to be killed by a tiger in the UK is buried at Malmesbury Abbey. Hannah Twynnoy was teasing the beast, which was part of a travelling circus, when it broke free of its cage and mauled her to death in 1703.

The world's oldest surviving photograph was taken at Lacock Abbey, home of photography pioneer William Fox Talbot. You can't see the original negative there - it is in the National Media Museum - but you can see the window through which it was taken in 1835.

Swindon used to be called Swine's Town. Its name originates from the Anglo-Saxon phrase swine dun, meaning "pig hill".

Amesbury is Britain's oldest settlement. It has been continually inhabited for 10,000 years, since around 8,820 BCE.